SEATTLE -- A police officer was fired after an internal investigation found he made unwanted advances toward three women he met while investigating potential crimes, the Seattle Police Department confirmed Friday.
Officer Peter Leutz, a 10-year veteran of the department and assigned to the East Precinct, is accused of calling and texting the women on multiple occasions.
Leutz initially came in contact with the women during legitimate police business last July and August.
In one of the contacts, which occurred on Aug. 10, 2014, Leutz pulled over a woman in a routine traffic stop. He issued her a warning, according to the internal investigation, but then came to her house less than an hour later to give her his personal phone number.
Leutz texted the woman 109 times over a period of 39 days. In one messages he asked her, “Did you feel something when we locked eyes?”
Just six days earlier, on Aug. 4, Leutz responded to the report of a domestic disturbance. He took down the phone number of the woman involved and texted her later on that day, calling her “cute and sassy” and telling her he wanted to “hug and comfort” her.
The Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) launched an investigation into Leutz’s conduct after one of the women reported the contact.
“The first complaint that came in, the woman had a specific information, including copies of text messages that to me raised real concerns about whether this employee had misused his authority and his access to some of his police work for his own personal purposes,” said OPA Director Pierce Murphy. “I’ve been in police oversight for 16 years now and I’m very familiar with the phenomenon of officers using their access to people to try to further some sort of personal or romantic relationship.”
The OPA completed its investigation into Officer Leutz last month and recommended termination. Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole followed the agency’s recommendation on Thursday.
In a disciplinary letter released by the department on Friday, Chief O’Toole had harsh words for Leutz.
“This was serious and repeated abuse of authority, and an unsettling pattern of behavior, some of it directed at women who you knew from the outset, or learned early on, may have been especially vulnerable given the turmoil in their personal lives,” she wrote.
“I simply cannot allow this police service to be represented by an individual who committed this level of serious misconduct. I do not have sufficient trust in your judgment or faith in your future conduct to ever send you back into the field as a police officer.”
The case is a blemish for the Seattle Police Department, which has been working in recent years to restore public trust following a damning Department of Justice investigation into bias policing and excessive force.
O’Toole has also had to remind officers in recent months about the impact individual behavior can have on the department as a whole. In February, two officers were placed on paid administrative leave for posting questionable comments on Facebook and Twitter about race and other issues.
“The Seattle Police Department is working tirelessly to rebuild community trust and restore pride in our organization. It’s unfortunate that behavior on social media by a few has contributed to the erosion of our collective efforts,” Chief O’Toole said in a statement last month after releasing a new, stricter social media policy.
Leutz was hired by the department in 2005. He previously made headlines after shooting and wounding an unarmed 13-year-old boy in south Seattle in 2007. In 2009, Leutz’s estranged wife filed for a temporary order of protection against him. She accused Leutz of threatening and intimidating her after they split up, according to court documents.
Leutz denied the accusations and said the request was baseless and an attempt to get back at him for wanting to divorce her.
Leutz can appeal the termination.